common sunflower
Helianthus annuus L.


Helianthus annuus is a coarse, hairy, leafy, fast growing annual that grows from 5-10 ft (1.5-3 m) tall on stiff upright stalks. It is native to dry plains, prairies, meadows and foothills in the western U. S., Canada and northern Mexico.
The leaves are large, ovate to triangular, sandpapery and up to 12 in (30.5 cm) long.
The 3-6 in (7.6-15 cm) wide sunflowers with orange-yellow rays and brown to purple center disks. Flowers bloom through the summer.
The disk flowers give way to the familiar sunflower seeds. The fruits are achenes which contain one seed.
Ecological Threat
H. annuus is native to North America, although Iowa lists it as a State Noxious Weed. It is also considered a weed in many agricultural areas. It is grown commercially for the seeds and the oil extracted from them, both for human consumption and as a wildlife food. H. annuus contains the world's second most important and valuable oil seed. (Coconut oil comes first.) The seeds contain 35-40% oil. They are high in polyunsaturated fat and contain no cholesterol. The seeds are a good source of protein, starch and calories.

Selected Images


EDDMapS Distribution

EDDMapS Distribution - This map is incomplete and is based only on current site and county level reports made by experts, herbaria, and literature. For more information, visit

State Regulated List

State Regulated List - This map identifies those states that list this species on their regulated list. For more information, visit

Invasive Listing Sources

Taxonomic Rank

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Asteridae
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Helianthus
Subject: Helianthus annuus L.

Synonyms and Other Names

Other Common Names:
annual sunflower, sunflower, wild sunflower


Plants - Forbs/Herbs